Diary

Gadfly
The Pentecost of denying freedom

God save us from Christians. That must be uppermost in the minds of those 700 asylum seekers who missed out on permanent protection visas because, as immigration minister, Scott Morrison asked ASIO in 2013 to go slow on processing the security checks.  

This helpful “mitigation strategy” ensured the applicants missed their deadline and could be marched out of the country within three years, instead of getting permanent residency. There’s little doubt that after several millennia we’ve discovered that God is a cruel God, which is just fine with Scott, who was content to break up families and bring misery down on the heads of the unfortunate. 

As a devout adherent to the Pentecostal ways of the Sutherland shire, the minister spends a considerable portion of his Sundays developing a direct and personal relationship with God and working on his spiritual gifts, which might include belief in miracles and speaking in tongues.

Just a month or so ago, the saintly Morrison said he was going to “call out” mockery and jokes about Christians. He even said he’s not going to put up with it anymore and demanded that people respect his right to believe in the hocus-pocus and malarky peddled by his church. 

Dashing the hopes of asylum seekers is clearly a divinely Christian move, deserving of great respect. 

Holy smoke and mirrors

Into Gadfly’s inbox plops an email from Senator, the Honourable Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, another warrior seeking to unshackle religion from its chains. 

Connie says she was the only Liberal Party minister to vote “no” in parliament on the same-sex marriage bill. Her religion guided her to do that, but apparently that’s not enough, because she wants her followers to make submissions in droves to the mayor of Hornsby’s freedoms review – that is, the one commissioned by Malcolm Trumble and to be conducted by the late Philip Ruddock

She nominates the need for conscientious protections for marriage celebrants, freedom of expression and recognition of legitimate beliefs, protections for charities, non-discrimination in government funding and parents to have the right to withdraw children from devil classes. 

It’s puzzling because all of these freedoms currently exist. You almost feel sorry for Phil having to wade through submissions demanding freedoms that God-botherers already have.

Ullo plod, gotta new motor?

Commuters wending their weary way home each day through the gentle hills and dales of the electorate of Wentworth are witness to the latest BMW and Jaguar cars, with blue-and-white chequered decals, parked outside the Rose Bay Police Station at the end of Trumble’s street.

These are not vehicles impounded from inebriated citizens, but gifts or loans from car dealers or the local chamber of commerce for use by the wallopers. 

The gesture is in keeping with the tradition that expensive baubles always flow to the most privileged ends of town. If this largesse continues, law enforcement in New South Wales could be entirely self-sustaining, with freebies from all sorts of merchants and service providers. One assumes no contra is attached. 

Possibly, the police should consider returning the Beemers after revelations that the car manufacturer, along with Volkswagen, was torturing monkeys with nitrogen dioxide during dodgy emission tests. Germans and their gases...

Past always greener

Cleaning out piles of bumf from the office at the beginning of the year, Gadfly unearthed a charming booklet issued by Trumble in the 2007 election campaign, when he had not long held the job of minister for the environment and water in the death throes of the Howard junta. 

Thumbing through the glossy document, printed on recycled paper and using vegetable-based inks, one could not help but wonder about all those dreamy visions for a better tomorrow. Fresh from signing the go-ahead for the Gunns pulp mill in Tasmania, Mal told his constituents: “I believe that nothing is more important to our future, and the future of our children, than working to preserve our environment.” 

He touted the magnificence of his $10 billion plan for water security in the Murray-Darling Basin, only to stand by later as PM and see it shredded by the known root vegetable Barnaby Joyce

He also claimed to be “a passionate advocate of the need to address climate change”, yet has gone on to sidle up to the coal industry and appoint Josh Frydenberg as the minister who speaks out of both sides of his mouth. 

What happened to the man who in 2007 wrote in bold font: “I believe environmental decisions must be based on science – not ideology or political grandstanding”? 

Today we have no clean energy target, as recommended by Doc Finkel, no cap and trade scheme, and carbon that is free to roam untaxed.

Prattle royal

Gadfly has been receiving favourable reports from the Dart on the recently released biography Ma’am Darling, 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret, written by Craig Brown of Private Eye fame. 

One of the angles pursued by Brown is that the monarch is required to avoid saying or doing anything unpredictable, hence the author noted a diary entry by George V: “The poor archduke and his wife were assassinated this morning in Serbia ... Stamps after lunch, bed at 11.30.” 

This may also explain why monarchs such as Brenda converse by asking airy questions such as “How long have you been here?” or “Have you come far?” – which apparently gives the impression of a “radiating common sense”. Brown explains:

“... the Queen has managed to avoid saying anything striking or memorable to anyone. This is an achievement, not a failing: it was her duty and destiny to be dull, to be as useful and undemonstrative as a postage stamp, her life dedicated to the near-impossible task of saying nothing of interest. Once when Gore Vidal was gossiping with Princess Margaret, he told her that Jackie Kennedy had found the Queen ‘pretty heavy going’. ‘But that’s what she’s there for’, explained the Princess.” 

It’s impossible to leave this intriguing topic without recalling Auberon Waugh’s observation that the Snowdons were “the two highest-paid performing dwarves in Europe”.

Esteem engine

Howard Collins, OBE, is the Englishman in charge of Sydney Trains, which has been lately in the news for reasons associated with chaos, overcrowding and delays. 

But that’s not the only string to his bow. From source materials we discover that Howard is the chair of the Australian branch of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, based in Alabama, a trustee of the London Transport Museum and a board member of Transport Heritage NSW. 

Somehow that all makes sense.

Plane view 

Already people are missing Ron Tandberg, the recently departed pocket cartoonist for The Age

As hacks remember his work, talk inevitably turns to his gags that never made it into print. In 1979 Deborah Lawrie, under her married surname Wardley, took Ansett Airlines to the Equal Opportunity Board in a sexual discrimination case. 

Australian airline pilots were all chaps and Sir Reg Ansett famously opined that females were unsuitable for the task because of their menstrual cycles, among other problems. 

Lawrie was awarded $14,500 by the board and Ansett was told to employ her. She was still undertaking final training when Ansett pilots went on strike and, with her colleagues, lost her job. Ultimately, she did train pilots for Tigerair. 

A Tandberg cartoon censored by then employer the Herald Sun showed Sir Reg turning to her from the pilot’s seat and saying, “That’s why they call it the cockpit.”

Trumpette #54

One of the great pleasures of the modern era is the war of words between the North Koreans and the United States president. As the language gets more intense, there’s every chance that the nuclear fallout will be less harmful. 

One of the more recent sprays from the Pyongyang wordsmiths is the description of Donald Trump as “an old lunatic, mean trickster and human reject”. 

The North was visibly upset by Trump’s insults while visiting South Korea, where he described Kim Jong-un as a “cult leader”. And this is quite apart from his being “short and fat”. Even though the quality of these slights was exceedingly poor, it was too much for Pyongyang’s state media: 

“The worst crime for which [Trump] can never be pardoned is that he dared (to) malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership. He should know that he is just a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people.” 

All the Dotard could muster in response was “madman”. North Korea is definitely ahead in the fire and fury stakes.

 

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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 3, 2018 as "Gadfly: The Pentecost of denying freedom". Subscribe here.

Richard Ackland
is the publisher of Justinian. He is The Saturday Paper’s diarist-at-large and legal affairs editor.